SALT LAKE CITY -- Colleen Cobia's life changed dramatically in a split second when a horse bucked her off three weeks ago.
"He's not a bad horse, he's a good horse," said the 51-year-old Layton woman during a break from physical therapy at the University of Utah Medical Center.
The mother of four is paralyzed from the rib cage down and may never walk again.
She has use of her arms and hands and is now working from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day to learn how to move herself in and out of a wheelchair.
Her husband, Rick Cobia, said Colleen "is a force of nature to reckon with."
The two faced tragedy before when their son, Truman, who was 13, died eight years ago following an all-terrain vehicle accident.
"My life changed instantly, not just for myself, but for my entire family," Colleen said about the horse accident.
"It is consuming us."
Colleen and Rick, along with their children Jordan, 23, Mitchell, 18, and Katie, 14, are trying to figure out how to change their home so Colleen can get around when she goes home on Aug. 25. The home has stairs and narrow hallways.
"I hope I can adapt to a new lifestyle," said the woman who has rarely watched TV.
"She doesn't even know where the remote is," said Lisa Freeman, a family friend.
An earth systems and biology teacher, Colleen has taught science at Fairfield Junior High School since it opened in 1994. She has asked for a year of extended leave.
Doctors have told her the first year after a spinal cord injury is the most important.
"I'm lifting weights, so I'm going to have guns, not the teacher arms," Colleen said.
Assistant Principal Chris Keime has known Colleen for four years.
"She's a great teacher," Keime said. "Our concerns, thoughts and prayers are with her and her family."
Colleen is also the district coordinator of the Wasatch Pony Club.
Freeman, who is also a member of the pony club, has taken over Colleen's duties.
"I'm learning what she has done," Freeman said. "(Colleen) has spoon-fed me the past five years."
Freeman said the Cobia family has made horse events possible at the Golden Spike Arena for many people in Davis and Weber counties for years.
When word got out to the horse community that Colleen was seriously injured, cards, emails, and phone calls poured in from all over the country.
Friends and neighbors have also pitched in to help the Cobia family, bringing in meals, taking Katie and Mitchell school shopping and checking in to see how Colleen is doing.
"It's kind of embarrassing," Colleen said.
"I'm really grateful there are so many kind and giving people. So many things have been offered and by so many people. I'm the kind who'd rather give."
For Colleen, "giving" meant building jumps for horse events and teaching young riders how many strides to take before they urge their horse to jump.
Horses have always been part of life for Colleen and her family.
"I think we were born on horses," Katie said, causing her mother to smile.
On July 15, Colleen Cobia decided to ride one of her five horses before packing for a trip to Kentucky to attend the United States Pony Club Festival.
The Cobia family had been saving for four years to attend the event, which also includes a national championship competition.
"I only had to pack my personal things," Colleen said of what she had left to do.
Her husband and daughter were hooking up the horse trailer to their truck, not far from their horse arena. Colleen put on her riding helmet and saddled up the horse. After a few moments of walking the horse, she decided to canter.
"I wasn't on the horse more than 10 minutes and he bucked me off," Colleen said. "I went head over heels and I knew instantly I was in severe trouble."
Rick spotted her on the ground.
She was taken by ambulance to McKay-Dee Hospital and from there was flown by helicopter to the University of Utah.
Colleen has trained many horses over the years, and she has worked with horses to help those with disabilities.
"It's a stress release and therapeutic for the handicapped," Colleen said. "When (the rider) touches the horse, you can see a change."
Colleen is focusing herself on retraining her body. She wants to be able to do things for herself again.
She chokes back the tears when she considers the little things, like climbing a ladder to put up Christmas lights, that she might not be able to do.
She even is uncertain about horse riding.
Asked if she will ride again, Colleen said, "I don't know."
But her family is there, supporting and encouraging her.
"Mom, you know the rules," Mitchell said quickly. "You get bucked off, you get back on. You're getting back on."
Several fundraising events have been scheduled for Colleen Cobia:
* Colleen Cobia/Pumpkin Benefit Horse Show, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Aug. 27, hosted by the Wasatch Pony Club at Golden Spike Arena, Weber County Fairgrounds. Proceeds will go to Colleen Cobia. Donations will be accepted at the event or can be made at any America First Credit Union in the account of Colleen Cobia Charitable Fund. For information, visit wasatchpc.org.
* Dirty Dash, 9 a.m., Sept. 17 and Sept. 24, Soldier Hollow, 2002 Olympic Drive, Midway. The event is a mud-run obstacle course; 25 percent of proceeds from those who register using promo code "coinforcolleen" go to Colleen Cobia. To register, go to www.thedirtydash.com/register.aspx.
* To donate directly online to the Colleen Cobia fund, go to www.wreautah.com.